Deadly shooting: Time for reckoning for Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin’s trial is expected to last about ten days in a court in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

AFP

His defense team tried everything to have his trial overturned, in vain: Alec Baldwin will be tried from Tuesday for involuntary manslaughter, after the fatal shooting that cost the life of the director of photography of his western “Rust.”

The trial is expected to last around ten days in a court in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the southwest of the United States, in order to dissect this drama which dates back to October 2021 and for which the 66-year-old actor risks up to 18 months in prison.

The star had pointed a gun on set that was supposed to contain only blanks, but a real projectile from it killed director of photography Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.

The rare incident, which occurred on a New Mexico ranch, shocked Hollywood and sparked calls to ban firearms on sets.

Gunsmith condemned

The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was already sentenced to 18 months in prison in April for her role in the case. She has appealed the sentence.

She was the one who had placed the bullet in the replica of the period pistol at the centre of the case. The prosecution has criticised her extreme negligence, which led to “constant security failures” on the set.

Inexperienced, the young woman left the weapons unattended and did not check that the blanks were actually fakes, in defiance of film industry protocols.

But the prosecution never established how live ammunition – which is in principle prohibited – ended up on the set. The investigation, however, indicted Alec Baldwin, who was accused of erratic behavior during filming.

“Mr. Baldwin’s pressure on the crew on the set regularly compromised safety,” prosecutors said in court documents, denouncing an actor who “regularly yelled” at everyone and wanted to finish the film faster.

“Absurd at first sight”

He was also a producer on the tight-budget feature film, but the prosecution is only pursuing him as an actor in the case.

Mr Baldwin, who was handed the gun by the assistant director and assured him it was harmless, has always denied pulling the trigger.

A version considered “absurd at first sight” by the prosecution, because an FBI expert report concluded that the pistol could not have fired without the trigger being pressed.

The prosecution believes that the actor “shamelessly lied about his behavior” on set, changing his version to avoid any responsibility.

Disputed expertise

The actor’s defense disputes the FBI’s expertise, because the federal police damaged certain parts of the gun while carrying out tests to explore the possibility of an accidental shot.

His lawyers tried to have the trial dismissed on that ground, as well as several other grounds of nullity. But Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer rejected all of their motions in late June.

The defense did not demonstrate that the prosecution “acted in bad faith by destroying certain internal components of the firearm,” the magistrate ruled, ordering the trial to continue.

Its outcome will be closely watched by Hollywood, where the actors’ union fears the case could set a historic precedent.

Civil agreement

“An actor’s job is not to be an expert on weapons or firearms,” SAG-AFTRA argued in January. “Firearms are provided for use on set under the direction of several expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate use of that firearm.”

Since the tragedy, filming of “Rust” has been completed in Montana, but the movie has yet to be released.

Halyna Hutchins’ widower Matthew has been promoted to executive producer, settling the civil lawsuit against Alec Baldwin in an undisclosed settlement and blaming his wife’s death on a “terrible accident.”

(afp)

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